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New school evaluation index could sub for AYP
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With a possible state waiver from No Child Left Behind’s adequate yearly progress standard looming in the future, Georgia education officials are spreading the word about a potential new index for evaluating schools.

Liberty County School System Superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer spoke with the board of education last week about the system’s performance on AYP — and how that may not matter if the U.S. Department of Education grants the state permission to move away from the standard.

Gov. Nathan Deal plans to apply next month for the waiver, joining a growing number of states looking for relief from the widely criticized 2001 education law.

Created by NCLB, the benchmarks for making AYP increase each year in an effort to have all students
proficient — and aligned — by 2014.

But the result is that more schools appear to be failing. The percentage of schools in the state making AYP fell from 71 percent in 2010 to 63.2 percent in 2011, according to initial reports released on July 21.

Moreover, the 85 percent graduation rate expected with AYP has hurt Liberty County. In 2011, neither Liberty County High School, with 75.1 percent, nor Bradwell Institute, with 77.1 percent, met the AYP requirements. 

“The goal of 100 percent proficiency for all of our students by 2014 is well meaning,” Georgia Superintendent of Schools John Barge said, “but because there are so many variables in the lives of children that schools cannot control, the likelihood of achieving this goal is slim.”

Georgia steering committees are working daily to refine proposed College and Career Ready Performance Indices, according to Becky Chambers, DoE College Readiness program manager.

The GCCRIPs would provide a more comprehensive look at how students and schools are achieving, and it would overcome some of the weaknesses of AYP, she said.

“One weakness of AYP is that a school can be described as ‘failing’ based on the lack or performance of a small number of students when the vast majority of students in the school are doing quite well,” she said.

AYP evaluates student performance scores on math and English language arts tests by demographic subgroups, including racial groups, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students.

In contrast, the GCCRIPs would take more factors, such as academic performance, progress and closing the achievement gap, into account, Chambers said.

The state system also takes into account one element that the AYP does not consider: movement toward technical careers. And that’s likely good news to those looking forward to the full opening of the Liberty College & Career Academy in August 2012.

“Our goal is to have our students prepared for the 21st century workplace, for technical programs, for technical colleges, for the U.S. military, and/or two- or four-year colleges and universities without need of remediation,” Chambers said. “The proposed GCCRIPs include a focus on preparation for careers, something that current AYP does not address, at all.”

For Scherer, the GCCRIPs allow Liberty County schools more avenues to demonstrate competency and to meet the needs of all students while acknowledging their differences.

It also would alleviate some of the score reporting issues for students with special needs, she said. Currently, schools must have at least 95 percent of students — regardless of the number who are designated as students with disabilities — participate in Georgia High School Graduation Tests to meet AYP standards.

In 2011, only 27.8 percent of students with disabilities were documented on the AYP reports as graduating from Liberty County High School, and 34 percent were documented as graduating from Bradwell Institute.

And, no more than 2 percent of the total population of students can take the Georgia Alternative Assessment, Scherer said. So many students who are learning disabled and “moderately and mildly intellectually prepared” are being held to the same standards as all students, according to AYP standards.  

Current rules say that test modification must utilize the same methods teachers use during a typical class, Scherer said.

“You can only read it to them if you read the curriculum during the day to them,” she said. “And there are very limited accommodations you can do: more time, small group, and in a few cases, you can read to them.”

The state-proposed method would provide more flexibility in documenting and assessing the performance of students with disabilities, Scherer said.

And, she adds, the proposed GCCRIPs would not require classroom adjustments for students and teachers. It would merely add some curriculum mastery to the list.

But the state waiver status is not the only uncertainty.

Without knowing the complete details of the index, administrators cannot predict whether Liberty County’s scores would change under the proposed system, Scherer said.

“As always, the devil is in the details, and we still do not have final details of how the index will be used,” Scherer said. “Because we do not have those details, we do not know how we would rate.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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